Sunday, October 29, 2023

MSC Seaside Cruise Review -- October 29,2023


MSC Seaside Cruise Review  --  October 29,2023

Just the Facts:
Ship: Gross tonnage: 153,516. Launched: November 26, 2016. Capacity: 4,132 (double occupancy)
Captain:   Corrado Iaconis (Italy)   Cruise Director: Bennie Robinson (South Africa)
Ports: Port Canaveral, USA - Ocean Cay, Bahamas (overnight) - Costa Maya, Mexico - Cozumel, Mexico

I’m cruising as a solo on this 7-day cruise. This is my 3rd cruise on the MSC Seaside, my 19th cruise on MSC, and my 203rd cruise overall.  I do have Diamond (formerly Black Card) status, the highest of the MSC Loyalty Club levels. 

Sunday, October 29 / Port Canaveral / Embarkation / Day 1

I have a 12:00-12:30 p.m. assigned boarding time so planned accordingly and left the Florida Villa at about 8:45 a.m. for the drive to Port Canaveral. I arrived at Park-N-Cruise at about 10:45. A very efficient parking company I have used for years now and soon I was on my way to the port terminal. I arrived at Pier number 10 at about 11:40 grabbed my bags and went up one level to port security and through fairly quickly. They had a Diamond card line and I went directly to a check-in counter. Very smooth process this morning and I was able to go straight to my cabin arriving on Deck 12 at about 12:15 p.m. I have an interior cabin located very near the aft elevator/stairwell. It is very comfortable, especially for a solo (photo). Much better access to the Wardrobe than in a balcony cabin. The cabin has a Queen bed, Wardrobe, Large screen Television, a Counter/dressing table with mirror, a Small stocked refrigerator, Shelving, and drawers inside the wardrobe, a Chair, and a small but adequate bathroom with a solid glass door shower. I was able to begin setup and hang my clothes straightaway. I was fortunate as most guests were waiting for cabins to open as late as 2:00 p.m. There are two buffets: one on deck 16 and one slightly smaller on deck 8. I went to deck 8 as they had outdoor seating (although they were full of guests waiting for cabins). My traditional embarkation selection Roast Beef was excellent…very moist and flavorful. I also had a nice fresh salad from the salad bar. I ordered the premium WiFi package and the reception in my interior was good. I had a wee nap until they began Muster Drill announcements at 4:00 p.m. I have the earliest seating, 5:15 pm, in the Seashore Restaurant on deck 5 aft. I was assigned table 550 an eight-top for solo cruisers and we had seven attend. Interesting group of old timers, but I’m not good with the time. The tables are beautifully set with proper tablecloths and table service something you don’t see on many cruise ships. Dinner and service was very good. For dinner, I ordered the Tomato Basil Soup, a very nice Scallop Ceviche, and the Prime Rib with Baked Potato entree. For dessert a wonderful Crema Catalonia. After dinner, I spent time on the aft deck in anticipation of the 7:45 scheduled Rocket Launch from Cape Canaveral. It was delayed until 8:17 but scrubbed just 17 seconds before lift-off. Disappointing but the weather and breeze were very enjoyable. I had reservations for the 9:30 Variety Show but retired to the cabin. It was straight to bed and some TV after a very long and busy day.

 Monday, October 30th / Ocean Cay Marine Reserve / Day 2 

Smooth seas overnight just enough movement for a very enjoyable night's sleep. The bed is very comfortable with good pillows. I went to the MDR for breakfast and I ordered Eggs Benedict with a side of Bacon, & hash brown potatoes. I was served Hot Milk which is not always easy to get on other cruise lines but very common on the Seaside. The Captain had to do a sail-around on the first attempt at docking this morning, but he was then successful and we were docked at about 9:20 am. I went up to deck 16 just to get a good view of the island. The water here is beautiful and the Palm trees have grown since I was last here. This stop will only improve over time. After a walkabout on the ship and a snack from the buffet, I debarked from deck 4 onto the island. I decided to swim in the lagoon area as I had not done that previously. The water was great. There is plenty of beach area for the entire ship without being crowded. I enjoyed a few beers while relaxing in the perfect 85° weather. I returned to the ship just in time for my 5:15 p.m. dinner assignment. I did observe that four 8-top tables in our area of the MDR seemed to be solo tables for seniors…and they did have a solo fare for this cruise. The early time does make some sense for MSC. I still prefer later but going with the flow as it's good for theater show times. It was French night for me, I ordered a Niçoise Salad with Tuna as my starter and the Coq Au Vin as my entree. MSC now charges $5 for a second entree, but the Niçoise Salad is so rare to find it was well worth it. It was very good too much better than the Coq Au Vin. My dessert was again very nice, I had a light whipped Fruit Cream. I went to the Metropolitan Theatre to see the comedian Ken Boyd. The 7:30 show was a packed house and he was entertaining but confrontational so not my style. Afterward, I did a walkabout and refamiliarized myself with the ship since I did a B2B on her when the Seaside was new. A very nice ship, but I prefer the MSC Meriviglia. I soon retired to the cabin and watched some NFL football before sleep.  I will note that NFL football is highlighted on this ship.  Most every game is featured and most available in the cabin.  You can even reserve choice booths in the Sports Bar for games.  A nice day at Ocean Cay.

Tuesday, October 31st / Halloween / Ocean Cay Marine Reserve / Day 3 

Happy Halloween. I slept in and had a casual morning updating this blog and doing some online business with the first of the month tomorrow. I did a walkabout to see the newest Halloween decorations…mostly newly carved pumpkins everywhere. I had a very nice lunch at noon when the main buffet (hot) opened on deck 8. The Grill and Pizza opened earlier. I had: Chicken Breast, Snow Peas, Couscous, and Mashed Potatoes, with an assortment of Panne and Petit Fours for dessert (photo: cake at buffet), I ate on the outer deck and enjoyed the weather and view of the island. I decided to stay onboard and went up to deck 16 for a different view and also made a reservation at Butchers Cut Steakhouse. Then to the Seaview Lounge to relax and use my laptop during the afternoon. I again went to the MDR for early dinner…it was Caribbean-themed tonight. I ordered the Guadeloupe-style Shrimp Tails, the Creole Seafood Gumbo, the Blackened Red Snapper with Lime and creole spices, and key Lime pie for dessert. All was very good. I also had the special Halloween dessert a Pumpkin spiced Cake with Cheesecake icing. I had a walkabout to see the many guests in costume then I went early to the Metropolitan Theatre in order to get a good seat for the feature production show: Peter Punk. A typical MSC production with a theme, great costumes, and physical entertainment such as Acrobats, Jugglers, Contortionists, Singers, Dancers, and even a Dinosaur. Very entertaining. I say typical for MSC as they have a very diverse mulitl-language guest base. I made it back to the cabin in time to see the World Series game four. My Rangers are in it for only the third time. I had season tickets for many years before we moved to the Ranch in Bosque County. It was a great day on board the MSC Seaside.

Wednesday, November 1st / Day at Sea / Day 4 

Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well. We also changed the ship's time to match our two Mexico ports. They delivered Prosecco, Macaroons, and Chocolate yesterday as a Diamond benefit so I will have macaroons for my breakfast snack. It’s a beautiful sea day, guests will enjoy the outer decks. At about 10:00 am I went to the Haven Lounge for the Diamond Reception. I walked in at 10:00 exactly and was the late, early crowd. They had small snacks on the tables and I was offered a selection of five drinks. No Hugos unless you paid. They had a saxophone player and a juggler before introducing the Captain and Hotel Director (photo). Nice event, but I took two Diet Coca-Cola from the bar and left early. I retrieved my laptop and spent some time on deck 7 at Bistrot la Boheme. Nice people-watching area while I work online. Also after the removal of the Halloween decor, you can see the three-level Waterfall in the atrium’s HD multi-screens. At about noon I went to the Buffet for lunch. I had a nice Salad and Pizza. My first Pizza of the cruise and excellent as usual on MSC. I sat out on deck 8 aft and enjoyed the view of the wake and blue seas. I lingered on the outer deck then returned to the cabin, with a few desserts, for a wee nap before dinner. I had a casual afternoon, considering some Trivia, but just relaxed. I went to the Butcher's Cut Steakhouse at 6:00 p.m. for dinner. A nice venue on deck 16 adjacent to the other premium restaurants on board. I ordered my usual favorites: the Burrata and Beet Salad, the Hearts of Palm Salad, and the Filet Mignon Steak with a side of Asparagus. The assortment of Breads and Steak Sauces were also good as was the service. Thank you, MSC. I made it back to the cabin in time for the first pitch of Game 5 of the World Series. It was a very tense and scoreless game until the 7th inning when Texas scored one run. Texas blew it open with key hits in the 9th and they won their first World Championship. Wow…a great night on the Seaside.

Thursday, November 2nd / Costa Maya, Mexico / Day 5 

From calm seas to rolling seas once we began approaching shore overnight and I slept well. We docked along with two Royal ships early. I went to the MDR for breakfast when it opened at 7:30 a.m. and it was busy. I ordered Mixed Fruit, Hot Milk, Danish, Eggs, Bacon, Hash Browns, and Toast. It was good once the order was corrected. As did the long walk down the pier to meet my 9:15 am excursion there were huge waves and threatening weather to the east. The excursion is to the Kohunlich Mayan Ruins. Our group of about 28 was prompt and we left a few minutes early. It was nice to have cell service while we were near the port and a few cities, but soon lost it in the Yucatan jungle. It was a bit of a drive as the site was located near the Belize border. Kohunlich is famous for the unique Temple of the Masks… which makes it different from other Mayan sites I have visited. There are a set of five (remaining) large carved Masks on one side of the Temple. We also saw Spider Monkeys and the scary Howler Monkeys in the Jungle canopy while on site. It was interesting. We returned to the port just before 4:00 p.m. I made it back to the ship at about 4:30 p.m. in time to get a couple of cans of Diet Coke from the scheduled Welcome Back Cocktail Party in the Haven Lounge. I took the cokes back to the cabin as it was such a short time until 5:15 dinner. We had some new guests at the table which made it better for the two ladies. Tonight I ordered Maryland Crab Cakes, Shrimp Cocktail, the Steak Diana entree, and a Tapioca dish for dessert. It was a nice dinner. After dinner, I attended the Production Show: Rock It. It featured the Singers and Dancers doing a set of classic songs. Unique costumes and a talented group. Thursday Night Football was even offered tonight, I have been impressed with the current Sports being offered, and I am hoping for the same with NCAA football on Saturday. I retired early as I was tired from all the walking today, about 8200 steps. I also love the evening turn-down service, very nice to have a clean cabin in the evening. It was a very busy day in port and on the Seaside.

Friday, November 4th / Cozumel / Day 6
Smooth seas overnight, just enough rocking for a good sleep. I actually slept late for me waking at 9:00 a.m. and we had been docked at Puerto Langosta for two hours. I was soon off and walking into town, I love docking at this pier, so much easier for the things I usually do when in Cozumel. My first stop was at Antonio’s for a haircut just after he opened at 10:00 a.m. A very good haircut too. The second stop is at ZensiSpa for a pedicure…very nice. The third stop is at my Cozumel HQ: Woody’s Bar & Grill. Luckily my favorite table was still available. The Live Entertainment by Michael, great Mexican Coca-Cola, excellent Guacamole and Pico de Gallo, and Bohemia beer were fantastic on this cooler and breezy day. My best weather day in Cozumel in a long while. I casually walked back to the ship (took photo above) arriving back at about 4:20 pm and a quick clean-up for my 5:15 dinner time. Dinner was very good, I ordered: a Baby Shrimp Cocktail, Penne all’Amayriciana, the Honey BBQ Meatloaf entree, and a Cherry Clafoutis Creme for dessert. The comedian Ken Boyd is scheduled in the theatre tonight, but having seen him previously did not attend. I had a movie night in the cabin and rested after two full days of activities. In business, it was a successful five days in the Stock Market up all five days, I should cruise more often. Overall another great port day in Cozumel.

Saturday,  November 4th / Day at Sea / Day 7

Some rolling seas overnight, just enough rocking for a good sleep. Wearing my game day T-shirt I went to breakfast at 7:30 a.m. when the MDR opened and sat with some (by now) regulars. I ordered Eggs Benedict with Bacon and Hash Browns. Also Hot Milk, Tomato Juice, Orange Juice, and Fruit Bowl. It was very good. I went to Trivia in the Haven at 9:30, it was a rather difficult one, I contributed but our team was short. Fun though. Agus cleaned my cabin while away…so glad he did it before kickoffs. It’s an overcast and windy day at sea so busy at all the indoor venues. I’m planning on having an NCAA Football Day all day. I watched the early games until about half-time then went to the Marketplace Buffet for a Salad and Pizza. It was good. I took several desserts back to the cabin for snacks as I suspect my Oklahoma game will run past early dining time. At 2:30 pm I took the laptop and AirPods up to the Bistrot la Boheme for better reception. I had a good spot and good reception to watch the OU vs. OSU game from there. Unfortunately, OU lost…too many turnovers, bad calls (seriously), and injuries to have when you play a good team. I retired to the cabin to eat my snacks and begin packing. I think we will be rolling off very early as we (the ship) never changed the time back to Eastern time. We should be an hour ahead of schedule when we arrive back in Port Canaveral .Photo is my interior cabin.  It was an interesting day on the Seaside.


Sunday, November 5th / Port Canaveral / Debarkation

We arrived very early, I was up and about at 5:00 a.m. and we were docked. I finished packing and was at the self-debark location before 6:30 a.m. We began leaving at about 7:00 a.m. and thanks to facial recognition we were soon on the street. I was on the parking shuttle bus by 7:30 and on the road by 7:50 a.m. Washed the VW in Lakeland, stopped for groceries, and was home at about 10:00 a.m. Easy Peasy.


Maiden Voyage: 2017 I Gross Tonnage: 153,500 tons

Passenger Capacity: 5179 | Crew: 1413 I Length: 323 meters/1060 ft

Max Cruising Speed: 22 knots I Avg Speed 21 knots

Installed power: Diesel (40,000kW) I Propulsion: Twin propellers

17 passenger decks Builder: Fincantieri

Godmother: Sophia Loren


I had cabin 12168 a starboard side interior located on deck 12 at the aft elevators. Storage is very limited too compared to other MSC ships. The toilet seems smaller perhaps because the glass shower doors restrict some movement. The wardrobe is also smaller so storage can be a problem. The cabin has a push-button safe, twin/king beds, a large padded headboard, two small nightstands, wall-mounted wall lights, a large mirror, a small refrigerator, a small table/bench (unusual), and a nice TV with interactive features. My cabin steward Agus was very good. See the Photo above.

Bars / Entertainment

Entertainment is not nearly as good as pre-covid. What they do is good, and guests are well entertained, but they will never know just how brilliant it used to be.  

Dining / Food 

The dinners in the MDR are very good, service and settings were wonderful. I love the tablecloths. Our wait staff were excellent, very pleased with the service. The buffet food was good to excellent. Not as many selections as in the past, but the food variety was fine. Favorites: all the Pizza, all the Pasta, Guacamole, Hamburgers, and Salad Bar. I only did one specialty restaurant: The Butcher’s Cut and it was great. 

Comments - MSC Cruise Line

MSC is very different than the usual American cruise lines and if you're looking for the same experience it will be much different. You may like the differences or you may be very unhappy with the differences. As an experienced cruiser, I love different. If you don’t like change or are not flexible you will probably NOT like sailing a European cruise line. Following are my personal observations on sailing MSC:  

MSC Pluses

Beautiful Public Rooms, Good MSC Production Shows and entertainment, Quality and Beautiful Themed Bars, Nice Cabins, Hot Milk readily available on buffet and MDR, Attentive bar servers, and Good MDR Breakfasts.

Changes since my last cruise on Seaside

Announcements are only in English

Fewer children since they changed the ‘Children sail free’ promotion.

Comedy shows

Many more American guests result in more: Scooters, Wheelchairs, and complainers.

$5 upcharge for a second entree in MDR

Highlights of the Cruise

Butcher’s Cut Steakhouse

MSC Loyalty including Diamond Card Parties & Gifts


Saturday, September 16, 2023

Carnival Mardi Gras Cruise Review - September 16, 2023



Just The Facts:

Ship:  Mardi Gras, first of Carnivals Excel class @182,000 gross tons. 5282+ capacity.

Ports: Port Canaveral - Cozumel, Mexico - Costa Maya, Mexico - Mahogany Bay, Isla Roatan, Honduras
This is a 7-day Western Caribbean cruise. It's my 8th cruise on the Mardi Gras, my 111th Carnival cruise, and my 202nd cruise overall. I am sailing as a solo using cruise credits from the canceled Carnival Jubilee inaugural so not a planned cruise but a cruise of opportunity.

Day One -- Saturday -- September 16th, 2023 -- Port Canaveral Embarkation  

I left the Florida Villa at about 9:30 a.m. for the drive to Port Canaveral and my 1:00-1:30 p.m. check-in time. I arrived at Park-N-Cruise just after noon. A very efficient parking company I have used for years now and soon I was on my way to the port terminal. I arrived at the pier at about 12:30 and went through port security and checked in fairly quickly. I was able to drop my roll-on bag in the cabin by 1:00 p.m. I have an interior cabin located on deck five at the aft elevator/stairwell. It is very comfortable, especially for a solo. The cabin steward, Aris, fixed me up with ice for my cooler and we set a cleaning schedule. The cabin has a queen bed, Double wardrobes, a Large screen Television, a Counter & mirror with a Heavy ottoman seat, a Small refrigerator, Shelving and drawers, and a small but adequate bathroom with a solid glass door shower. I went to my Muster Station on deck 7, then up to the Lido Marketplace on deck 16 for some Roast Beef. I ate very light as I was on a Game-Day schedule with kickoff at 3:30 then went to Big Chicken for my primary meal at about 3:00 pm. A good time to go as it wasn’t too busy. I had my MDE (regular chicken sandwich with Pickles & Shaq sauce) and a Tenders & Fries with dipping sauces…it was very good. I got back to the cabin at about 3:35 just in time for kickoff. I ordered the premium WiFi package and the reception in my interior was very good. I purposely selected a cabin along the elevator shaft with that in mind. Very happy with the Oklahoma vs, Tulsa game too, a 66-17 blowout for the Sooners. At sundown, I went up to the Lido Marketplace and had a nice bowl of mixed fruit on the outer deck. It was quite nice (photo above). I was looking for fruit to take for smacks but none to be found, I hope that’s not a cut-back. I didn’t go out for any shows or bars but returned to the cabin to watch the evening football games. One advantage of being an experienced cruiser is that you don’t have to do any ship activities if that’s your choice. I soon fell asleep to the rocking of the ship.

Day Two -- Sunday --  September 17th, 2023 -- Port Canaveral Embarkation 
Slightly rocky seas overnight and I slept very well in my interior cabin. I woke early, reviewed scores of late NCAA football games, then went up to Lido deck and my favorite breakfast on a Carnival ship: The Blue Iguana. I had one Tortilla with two easy-fried eggs, I added Cheese, Pico de gallo, and Salsa. I had an Arepa and Watermelon on the side. It was fantastic. I did a walkabout on Lido then down to deck 6 to get back to the aft staircase. Guests were exploring the ship and the Lido deck was already full. Mid-morning I went up to deck 6 when Aris came to clean the cabin… guests were busy with Trivia and a large crowd waiting for the Seaday Brunch, they will learn to use the HUB to make reservations. I had time to update this blog and finalize getting the cabin squared away…I feel like I’m ready to cruise. At about 1:00 pm I went to the Summer Landing on deck 8 aft. They have most of the NFL games on various Televisions in the area. I found the Tampa Bay Buccaneers TV and found a decent seat. I did the bucket of beers special as it included Pilsner Urquel my favorite. I enjoyed several during the game and also had a BBQ Plate before they closed at 2:30. It was fun watching with a group and the Bucs and my favorite (OU grad and Heisman Trophy winner) Baker Mayfield did well. Go Bucs! I retired to the cabin to relax then went up to the Lido Marketplace at sundown for a light dinner. The beef was excellent. I ran into an old friend former Alchemy Bartender Milos who is now the Bar Manager on board. I haven’t done a bar yet but will soon. I did catch the end of the Cowboys game too before retiring for the evening. It was a fun sea day on the Mardi Gras.

Day Two -- Monday --  September 18th, 2023 -- Cozumel, Mexico 
Smooth seas overnight and I slept well. I wasn’t up until almost 9:00ish as we approached Cozumel. We were docked before our scheduled 10:00 am arrival and the Breeze is the only other Carnival ship at Puerto Maya…I do miss the Carnival Breeze out of Galveston. It’s a beautiful day in Cozumel so many guests will love a beach day. I left the ship at about 10:40 and it was quite busy. I got a Taxi outside the port and went into San Miguel. A quick stop at the church then Martin opened Antonios. It was 10:00 local time. After a much-needed haircut, I went down to Woody’s Bar and Grill my Cozumel hangout. It was slower than usual and I had my favorite table. I started with a proper Mexican Coca-Cola as usual, I brought my own insulated mug that helps with the ice situation. I saw David, my favorite bartender, and Ximena one of the new owners. I soon ordered my Guacamole, Pico de Gallo, and chips as I skipped breakfast this morning. Very good guacamole today…and becoming harder to find in the USA. I enjoyed several drinks including a Bohemia Clara, and then ordered a Shrimp Quesadilla dinner plate, it was great. We had a brief rain shower that dropped the humidity too. My guayabera shirt was feeling a little tight so I purchased a new one from the DW’s favorite vendor in the Craft Area across from Woody's. A good day in San Miguel all around: a great bar, Live Music!, fast internet, a haircut, a new guayabera shirt, and seeing some old friends. I took the taxi back to Puerto Maya arriving before our 5:30 back on board time. After some relaxing cabin time, I went to dinner at the Bonsai Teppanyaki at 7:15 pm, it was a chance last minute booking. It was very good, my main entree items were a Lobster and filet Mignon combination. The appetizers, fried rice, vegetables, and dessert samples (6) were very good. Of course, the show is unique and enjoyable too (photo). IMHO it’s a better meal and value than the premium seafood and steakhouse venues. The meal and gratuity rounded up comes to $50. After dinner, I went to the Brass Magnolia to listen to my favorite jazz band from previous Mardi Gras cruises: Washboard Joe. They were excellent. I then retired to the cabin and I was soon asleep. It was a very productive day in Cozumel and on the Mardi Gras.
Day Four -- Tuesday --  September 19, 2023 -- Costa Maya, Mexico   
Smooth seas overnight and I slept well. We were docked well before our 9:00 am arrival time and it's a beautiful sunny day in Roatan. I had a very lazy morning relaxing on the deck 8 recliners on the shady side of the ship facing the Mahahual lighthouse. The water is a very beautiful Caribbean blue today as the weather has been fair here of late. Very nice for guests on a beach day. I had lunch on the aft Lido deck at Big Chicken. Always good. I went to the Serenity Deck on 18 forward, lot of guests staying on board, but I got a nice table for my laptop. The pool was refreshing and the view was nice. I retired to the cabin and actually took a nap, easier in an interior. I went for dinner in Cucina del Capitano at about 7:15, I was able to make a reservation very easily. It felt odd when I walked in, other than the terrible table that tried to place me at the entry door, it finally dawned on me: No Tablecloths. The Cucina had been the last hold-out for tablecloths on Carnival and the red and white checked tables were so attractive and Italian. Alas, no more. I ordered: Arancini, Nonna’s Meatball, Minestrone Soup, Spaghetti Carbonara, and Chicken Parmesan (no dessert). It was good, but not as good as I remember. A bit dry and I asked for extra tomato sauce. After dinner, I went to the Brass Magnolia to hear two jazz sets from Washboard Joe. Also a nice Cosmopolitan as an after-dinner cocktail. I then retired. It was a very relaxing day on board the Mardi Gras. 

Day Five -- Wednesday --  September 20, 2023 -- Mahogony Bay,  Roatan Island, Honduras 
Smooth seas overnight and I slept well. I woke at about 8:00 am and we were already docked at Mahogany Bay. The weather is beautiful but it will be hot today and I am staying on the ship. I’ve been everywhere on the island and done everything there is to do as well. The Mahogany Bay Port facilities are nice and actually perfect for the beginning cruisers, but not very interesting to me. I went up to the Blue Iguana before it closed at 10:30 a.m. for my favorite breakfast. I spent several hours in the Summer Landing area lounging and watching rugby on the big-screen Television while working on my laptop. I did a walkabout on the ship and there are a lot of guests who remain on board. Most were seniors such as myself or guests who had been to Roatan previously and used the many options on board the ship with fewer people on board. The Bolt rollercoaster was busy today. At about 4:20ish, I went to Guy’s Burgers for a standard hamburger (photo), it was good, but I could do better. They won’t customize enough to make a proper onion-fried hamburger, but I had them prepare two fresh hot meat patties & had them place the fresh shredded onions between the meats then smash it all on a single bun. The heat then does its magic, it was great. I had a good outside shaded table with a view of the beach too so this was a nice early dinner for this evening. We were late sailing away due to two missing guests, then once we were finally away the Captain made a ship-wide announcement…that’s never good. It seems we were having propulsion problems and would have to come to a complete stop. Doesn’t happen often and in just over an hour the Captain announced an all-clear…so we were off again. Nice, I want to be home on Saturday in time for a noon kickoff. Just a relaxing evening, I did go by Pixels and picked up the Diamond gift, it was a fanny pack and ship pin. I also got my $25 free-play casino chips, but didn’t use them. I had movie time in the cabin before retiring. It was another relaxing day on the Mardi Gras.

Day Six -- Thursday --  September 21st, 2022 -- Fun Day at Sea   
Smooth seas overnight and I slept well. I woke early and updated this blog and had some travel business on recent bookings so it was internet time this morning. I had a restful morning then went to the Diamond Luncheon at noon in the Flamingo Dining Room. This was my first luncheon since they finally introduced the new menus a few months ago. I had a nice service team and a bar waiter. I ordered the Natchitoches Meat Pies (from the Bistro menu) as my appetizers, and two entrees: the Gilled Jumbo Shrimp and the Bacon-wrapped Filet Mignon (photo). For dessert the Fresh fruit and Pineapple Sorbet. It was all very good. The CD introduced the officers and my friend Milos is now the Beverage Manager. I spoke with Washboard Joe on my way back to the cabin, I asked about the ‘chicken’ and it’s not a part of the act this year…less comedy and more Jazz. That group is perfect for the Brass Magnolia. I had a long four-hour nap this afternoon which is a tradition following a successful (cocktails) Diamond Luncheon. This evening I again was able to make a dinner reservation with only a 10-minute wait at ChiBang for 7:15 pm. I had a nice table and could watch the sunset as well. I ordered all my favorites: Egg Drop Soup, Pork Belly, Simple Greens Salad, Hakka Noodles, Beef and Broccoli, Kung Pao Chicken (spicy), and Coconut Tea Tres Leches for dessert. It was all very nice, a good day for food on the Mardi Gras. I went by the Brass Magnolia for a while then retired to the cabin to update my blog, do some business online, and watch some NFL football. The WiFi has been excellent, with great reception for the game. It was a FUN lazy sea day on the Mardi Gras.

Day Seven -- Friday --  September 22, 2023 -- Fun Day at Sea 
Smooth seas overnight and I slept well. I had online business early then made a reservation for Sea Day Brunch in the MDR at about 10:15 am. Again a very short wait until I received a table assignment, it was aft facing two-top table…perfect. I ordered my almost complementary Bloody Mary and a nice hearty breakfast. Eggs Benedict, Two fried eggs easy, Hash Browns, Pork Sausage, Pork Bacon, French Toast, and Milk. It was very good and very filling. I then finished my online project and did some debarkation planning. I had an easy afternoon doing a walkabout until the Diamond/Platinum Reunion party at 4:30 p.m. in the Theater. I got my Diet Pepsi at the door when entering and sat low to hear the solo guitarist that I had only seen in passing on deck 6 near the Fortune Teller Bar small stage. He was good. My first time seeing the Cruise Director since I haven’t gone to any shows, he too was good. As it turned out I was the high cruiser…the good thing about it was that Captain Alessandro met me as I came up the stage, we became friends years ago when he was the Captain of the Triumph. I had his Texas farewell party photo of him in his cowboy hat on my phone and he had to show it to the staff. It was nice. I don’t always go to this event, but glad that I did. I had my $25 Fun Play chips in my pocket so stopped at the casino to play roulette. I did fair, I walked away with $60 in real chips. For dinner tonight I went to the Pig & Anchor located in Summer Landing deck 8 aft. The Backyard Band had just started their first set when I was seated…great view. I enjoyed them and the female lead, she was excellent…she did Brenda Lee, Beatles, Classic rock, and more. My dinner was perhaps the best meal of the cruise. I had a half rack of St. Louis Ribs, Brisket, Pulled Park, Slaw, Onion strips, a wide variety of BBQ sauces, and Banana pie for dessert. I had taken a Pilsner Urquell I had left over from the football night bucket too. All is well. I went to the Brass Magnolia to hear one set by Washboard Joe and have a dessert cocktail New Orleans style with my Diamond voucher before retiring.  It was a great final sea day on the Mardi Gras.

Debarkation -- Saturday -- September 23rd, 2023 -- Port Canaveral, Florida 

Smooth seas overnight as we sailed along the coast of Florida and I slept fair. I was up by 5:30 a.m. and I finished my packing process. The Diamond guests meeting was at 7:15 a.m. at the Center Stage space but I went early and was glad I did as they were leaving when I arrived at about 6:45 a.m. So I never stopped leaving the cabin until I reached the shuttle bus spot at 7:00 a.m. Facial recognition really gets everyone through security quickly. I was leaving the Park-n-Cruise lot by 7:40 a.m. Home at the Villa in Meadow Oaks before 10:00 a.m. Amazing how smooth debarkation was today.



Diamond/Platinum Reunion

Good Fast Food: Big Chicken, Guy’s Burgers

Bonsai Teppanyaki

Instrumental Grooves with Washboard Joe 

Pig & Anchor BBQ

Diamond Luncheon


Sunday, June 11, 2023

Allure of the Seas - June 11, 2023


Allure of the Seas  -  June 11, 2023
Just the Facts
Ship:  Allure of the Seas,  A Royal Caribbean Oasis class ship launched in 2010 @ 225,200 tons. Largest at sea at that time.
Ports: Galveston, Texas - Isla Roatan, Honduras - Costa Maya, Mexico - Cozumel, Mexico

This is a make-up group cruise for my senior high school class at DCHS...a planned 52nd class reunion cruise cancelled due to Covid-19.  It will be great to see fellow high school classmates most from Oklahoma.  I am sailing as a solo.  This is my first cruise on the Allure, my 35th Royal Caribbean cruise, and my 201st total cruise overall.   

Day One--Sunday—Embarkation 

I woke very early (3:45 am) to finish packing and head to the Tampa Airport for my 6:30 am flight on Southwest Airlines. I have sailed from Galveston well over 100 times but this is my very first time to fly there so a completely new experience. The two-hour direct flight arrived at Houston Hobby at about 7:50 am. The port shuttle meeting area was in the baggage claim area so very easy. I was the third person to check in. The first bus wasn’t until 10:00ish so I had time to get a full breakfast in the terminal. Nice to have Salsa Verde with my eggs again. The bus left as scheduled and we arrived at the new Royal Caribbean cruise terminal at about 11:00 am. We were dropped right in front of the Terminal. The new terminal design allows for self-drop off of luggage as your first process on arrival…perfect for a primarily ‘drive-to’ port. Since I gave both of my bags to a porter in the bus area I proceeded directly into the huge arrival area. They have designed this for large crowds and use mobile check-in so no fixed counter area…they can use as many personnel as needed. So very different as you actually check in first…then you go through Security. Once through security one final ID check using facial recognition and you can board the ship. I was on board by 11:45 am entering the huge Promenade on deck five. Very pleased with the embarkation process. Cabins don’t open until 1:00 pm so I did a walk-about on the way to the Windjammer buffet. This is a huge ship, but having sailed the Harmony OTS I was prepared. My lunch was very good, I had two nice German pork schnitzels and mashed potatoes, two of my favorites on RCL buffets. The watermelon was very nice too. I ran into my first classmates in the Solarium area. BTW—a good alternative to the very crowded Windjammer for a nice meal option although limited serving times. I went to my cabin on deck 12 and dropped my backpack then went on a walkabout checking in at my Muster Station E-3 back on deck 5. I found a large group of classmates around the corner in Boleros…very nice. They were in various stages of arrival, planning, and exploring. It was great seeing them. I did another walkabout stopping at the Schooner Bar for a cocktail before returning to my cabin. I watched us sail away from my balcony, a little different from the new port terminal location. Although this was my home port for over twenty years it seems so different for me. I met my cabin steward I Wayan from Bali and set up a cleaning schedule for the week. At about 7:00 pm I went for an aperitif at Boleros and was joined by a few classmates. Most of our group is attending the production show Momma Mia this evening. As a group, we have 7:45 pm dining and three nice tables near the entry on deck four of the Main Dining Room (MDR). Tonight I ordered the Escargots a la Bourguignonne, Roasted Tomato Soup, the Spaghetti Bolognese entree, and Key Lime Pie for dessert. It was excellent and I enjoyed the Bread and the Tablecloth too. I then retired to the cabin…It was a great and long first day on the Allure of the Seas.

Day Two—Monday—at Sea 
Smooth seas overnight and a very restful night after such a busy day. I woke up early and updated this blog. Rest and relaxing are the order of the day so I didn’t leave the cabin until noon. When the DW and I sailed on the Harmony of the Seas we were never able to eat in the Bistro in the Solarium as they have very limited hours. Today I went straight away there for lunch. They offer a mini buffet and they had exactly what I wanted: Mashed Potatoes and Pork Cutlets. They offer roast beef, hamburger fixings, french fries, and fruit. A good option and no children. True to form they closed at about 1:10 pm while I was there. I went by the Schooner Bar for an Elderflower Martini at about 14:30 and saw some classmates so stayed for a visit. C&A had left a small fruit plate in the cabin when I returned. Balcony time the rest of the afternoon, The entire group was at Boleros at 19:00, which was nice. We also had a full house on all three of our tables in the MDR this evening. This is the first elegant night so a special menu as well. I ordered: the Escargots a la Bourguignonne, the Iceberg Wedge Salad, the Roasted Beef Tenderloin entree, and a Creme Brûlée for dessert. It was a very enjoyable meal. I retired to the cabin but then decided to go get some Coca-cola with my remaining drinks vouchers at the Schooner Bar. Some of my Snoozemates’ cruise friends were there so I stayed for some piano bar entertainment by Grace Rouch. It was fun and my Elderflower martinis were very good. Following two sets of music I finally retired to the cabin. It was a relaxing and fun sea day on the Allure.


Day Three—Tuesday—at Sea 

Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well. Another relaxing morning for me. I had a banana from my fruit bowl for breakfast so I was ready to go down to the Boardwalk and Johnny Rockets (photo left) when they opened at noon. I started with a large Diet Coke and a nice plate of Onion Rings as a starter. I had the Double meat burger with cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, and mayo. It was served with both onion rings and french fries. Although they offered Sundaes or Pie for dessert I order a Vanilla Malt. Everything was great. I did a short walkabout on the Boardwalk and the Deck 5 Promenade. The Guacamole making class at Sabor looked interesting. The open skating time looked appealing, but I didn’t bring any extra long pants so can not do it. I-Wayan had my cabin cleaned upon return so it was Balcony-Business-and Nap time the rest of the day. At about 17:00 I went down to deck 5 with a friend and had a couple of Pilsner Urquells in the Bow & Stern Pub. Then over to Boleros for a martini. It was Italian night in the MDR. Tonight I ordered the Arancini, a Green Salad, the Chicken Parisian entree, and the Pot de Cream for dessert. After dinner, I went to the Schooner Bar for one set at the Piano Bar before retiring to the cabin. It was another very nice sea day sailing on the Allure of the Seas. 
Day Four—Wednesday—Isla Roatan, Honduras 
Smooth seas overnight and I slept well. At about 8:00 we docked at Coxen Hole the original port for the island. A lot of changes including adding a second pier. Very different than when I was here on the very first scheduled cruise ship to call at Roatan. I’m staying on board to take advantage of the ship amenities and walk about with fewer guests on board. I went to the Windjammer for breakfast, the ham from the Carving Station was excellent and a biscuit as good as I have had on a cruise ship. I went up to the Solarium and one of the large hot tubs, the water jets are great for my tendonitis. From the height of the Allure, you can see across the airport mountain and the ships at Amber Cove. I also visited with friends before returning to the cabin. At about 13:00 I went down to the Park Cafe for both a Salad and one of their great Roast Beef Sandwiches. It was not busy at all with few guests on board. Time for a walkabout before returning to the cabin for movie time. I enjoyed watching Cleopatra even more having recently been in Egypt. C&A delivered some very nice Petit-fours…thanks. It was a warm but tolerable day for guests doing the great excursions on the island today. My favorites here in the past have been: West Bay/Tabyana Beach, West End, Anthony’s Cay, French Cay, and several Zipline parks. I watched sail way from the balcony then went to the Diamond Lounge and met friends at about 1730. It was my first time there on this cruise. I visited and enjoyed cocktails. I went to dinner in the MDR and ordered a large order of Coconut Shrimp and Caribbean Jerk Pork Chop. It was good. No dessert as I excused myself a bit early to get to the Studio for the Ice Games! Ice Show (photo above). It was very clever themed as a Monopoly with squares being locations on the ship…Boardwalk was obvious. The large skate team was very entertaining and talented. I enjoyed the show. Afterward, I met my classmates in Boleros for late cocktails. It was fun but I soon retired. It was a fun and full ‘stay on the ship’ day for me.
Day Five—Thursday--Cozumel, Mexico 
Smooth seas overnight and I again slept well. We were docked at the International Pier by 8:00 with guests getting off early. I had a Banana for breakfast this morning and did some work that needed secondary verifications and my iPhone does have service in Mexico. A good thing. I went off at about 9:15 and got a taxi outside the gate fairly easily ($8) and was at Woody’s Bar & Grill by 9:45. They allowed me to set up as usual while they opened. At about 10:30 I went down to Antonio’s to get my haircut ($8), Martin is the best. Woodys was open by the time I got back and I had a Diet Coke and my usual order of guacamole earlier than usual, but I didn’t have breakfast. Super fast WiFi. I was later joined by a friend and we enjoyed a few Cervezas. It was a very hot day and we decided to head back early to the ship. A refreshing shower revived me and I went to the Park Cafe for a sandwich and salad.
We were docked next to the Voyager of the Seas and once they sailed it opened up the view and a nice breeze out on the balcony. A light shower began so the balcony time was very nice until sailing away at about 18:00. I had an aperitif at the Champagne Bar with friends before going to the MDR for our dinner. Tonight's theme was Taste of Mexico and I ordered: the Escargots, Shrimp Cocktail, Roasted Poblano Pepper Soup, the Carne Asada entree, and two desserts: Carmel Flan, & Tres Leches cake. It was a lot but portions are smaller and all was very good. I have reservations for the Aqua Show this evening, but they were canceled…something about the water, I could not hear the announcements as it was over the noise of dinner. I stopped by the Schooner Bar to get some Coca-Cola and Ginger Ale for the cabin. and retired early. It was a nice productive, but hot day in Cozumel. I’m really enjoying my classmates.
Day Six — Friday— Costa Maya, Mexico  
Smooth seas overnight and I slept well. I woke too early but updated this blog and reviewed the early news. We were soon docked at Costa Maya but with a 12:30 back-on-board time I’m staying on board the ship. I have a nice view from my balcony and the water is beautiful today but not enough port time for the effort to even get to nearby Mahahual. I had another Banana breakfast and did some work online this morning. At noon I went to the MDR for lunch, I had two entrees, a Spicy Chicken Sandwich and the Steak Frites. For dessert a Floating Island (good but not as good as MSC’s). I watched sail away from the balcony and had a lazy afternoon. I went by the Diamond Lounge at about 17:20 and enjoyed a few cocktails, then met all my classmates at the Schooner Bar at 18:20. They all are having a great cruise, a new experience for most of them. I had reservations at Chops Grille, the American steakhouse, for 19:45 with my Snoozemates (photo), It was very nice. I ordered the Colossal Shrimp Cocktail, Jumbo Lump Crab Cake, the Wedge Salad, and the 9 oz Filet Steak with butterflied cut with Baked Potato and Mushrooms. It was a very nice meal with good friends. I did a walkabout the ship and guests were out this evening…all the late-night venues were very busy. I did stop for a final nightcap at the Schooner before heading to the cabin. It was a relaxing and great visiting day on the Allure of the Seas.
Day Seven — Saturday—Sea Day   
Smooth seas overnight but I would have slept very well in any seas last night. I went to the Park Cafe for a Danish and Doughnut...a light breakfast, then went to Dazzles for a Q&A session. The Q&A had cast from Ice Skating, Theater, and the Aqua group and was open to Diamond and above guests. This replaces the ‘back-stage' tours that used to be offered and really is easier and better as it includes information from all the performance areas. I had lunch in the MDR again. I ordered the Iceberg Wedge, Spaghetti Bolognese, BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich w/ Fries & Slaw, and Key Lime Pie for dessert. It was very good. I went to the theater at 13:50 and got great seats about 6 rows back in the center for Momma Mia. The two-and-a-half-hour production show was absolutely fantastic. The singers and dancers were amazing. Do not miss this if you sail on the Allure. After the show, I had cabin time and began packing until 17:00 when I went to the Diamond Lounge. My new D-lounge friends were there and I enjoyed a nice cocktail and visit. At about 18:40 I went to the Champagne & Martini bar for an Elderflower Martini. A last farewell and photo with the Snoozemates before my regular 19:45 dinner with my classmates' group. Tonight I ordered: the Chilled Shrimp Cocktail, Mediterranean Papas Medley (Pita bread, Hummus, Tzatziki, Greek Salad), The Braised Lamb entree, and the Cream Catalana dessert. The head waiter also surprised me with some Hearts of Palm…very nice. Lots of goodbyes after dinner with the group. The Aqua Show was canceled again tonight so I retired to the cabin to finish packing. It was an interesting and emotional final day on The Allure of the Seas.


Smooth seas overnight and I slept well. I was up very early so time to finish packing and shower. We were docked before 7:00 am in Galveston and self-assist started rolling off by 7:20. I have Airport Shuttle so I’m tag #2 which was called at about 8:00. Debark was fair for this large of a ship. Facial Recognition at customs is fantastic. I was on the shuttle by 8:20 and at the airport at 9:00. Unfortunately I don’t board until 2:30 but Wifi is good at HOU.  Flight went very well, the girls picked me up at TPA and I was home at the Villa at about 19:15 local time.


I had cabin 12664 a balcony on the port side just off the aft atrium. Features: Two Wardrobes, Vanity with drawers, small Refrigerator, Keypad safe, Couch, Queen Bed, Nightstands, Chair at vanity, Chairs & small table on the balcony, Standard enclosed shower, and HD TV.

Highlights of the Cruise

Of course, sailing with my Classmates was one of the best Highlights I have ever had in 201 cruises. It’s been 54 years since graduation and it seemed like yesterday as far as friendship and camaraderie were concerned. Many were new to cruising and a few were old salts, but all seemed to have a wonderful time and experience. I hope we have time to do it again in the future. 

Personal Observations
The new Terminal is amazing.  Very fluid in guest control.
I thought the food overall was very good…much better than recently sailed MSC and Carnival.  
Royal continues to have the best Loyalty Program…by far.
Embarkation and Debarkation went very well for this large of a ship.